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SMCo. SFO BART extension ridership up, but deficit lingers

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  • 1/23 Redwood City Daily
    Published Monday, January 23, 2006, in the Redwood City Daily News BART s ridership up, but deficit lingers Double-edged sword: SFO extension brings in more
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 24, 2006
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      Published Monday, January 23, 2006, in the Redwood City Daily News

      BART's ridership up, but deficit lingers
      Double-edged sword: SFO extension brings in more riders, but runs in red

      By Beth Winegarner
      Daily News Staff Writer

      Although Bay Area Rapid Transit's link to the San Francisco
      International Airport has boosted systemwide ridership, the
      extension is expected to run a deficit for the next decade.

      Those forecasts are part of BART's 10-year plan, released for public
      comment late last week. The report also shows that from 2004 to
      2005, ridership grew 36 percent at the South San Francisco station,
      14 percent at the SFO station, 21 percent at the San Bruno station
      and 15 percent at Millbrae station -- all of which opened in 2003.

      Annual updates

      BART updates its 10-year plan annually, but 2006's is the first in
      several years that doesn't anticipate a $25 million to $50 million
      annual operating deficit, according to spokesman Linton Johnson.

      "That has been eliminated through negotiations with the unions, who
      will be taking a greater share of the health-care coverage so that
      we can provide retirement and medical benefits we didn't offer
      before," Johnson said.

      However, the electric-based rail service is expecting a 76 percent
      increase in energy costs in the coming years. A decade ago, BART
      negotiated a long-term deal with energy companies to pay 40 to 60
      percent less on its electrical bills -- but that agreement is
      expiring.

      "We're going to be facing huge bills," Johnson said. "Now that we've
      been able to get rid of the deficits we'll have room to play with,
      but that's being eaten up by electricity costs."

      No major changes planned

      No major changes are planned at the Peninsula stations, according to
      Johnson. The SFO extension will continue to operate in the red for
      the coming decade, after which it will begin to turn a modest
      profit, officials predicted in the forecast document. Adding a link
      to the airport has attracted passengers, who seem to use the station
      as much on weekends as weekdays, according to the report. Since the
      station was built, BART has seen its ridership numbers return to
      2001 levels, before the dot-com bust led to severe declines.

      BART's 10-year report forecasts that systemwide ridership will
      increase between 1.6 and 2.3 percent annually between now and 2015,
      eventually riding to 373,900 average weekday trips.
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